Posted on 1 December 2016
Experiments at the YEAR Centre aim to enhance understanding of the manufacture, function and meaning of prehistoric and historic artefacts by using traditional techniques and processes.
This outdoor research is allowing the Department of Archaeology to tackle big questions about the role of material culture in our human past. This includes how people made weapons and hunted animals; processed and cooked food; made and wore jewelry; and manufactured red deer headdresses as part of shamanic rituals.
Such insights are bringing researchers closer to understanding human behaviour, including early evidence for belief systems as well as cultural traditions surrounding cuisine and ornamentation.
Unique in the UK, - in so far as the outdoor laboratory is situated alongside the high-tech Department of Archaeology's BioArCh laboratories - students and staff at the University are able to integrate outdoor experimental work with indoor scientific analyses.
The Department of Archaeology currently runs a Master’s Research Skills Module in Experimental Archaeology with an undergraduate course scheduled for next year. This alternative to lecture-based learning is enabling students to get hands on experience in practical aspects of material culture research.
Dr Aimée Little, who directs the YEAR Centre, looks back on 2016 and shares some of her highlights working in this special outdoor laboratory:
“As part of the European Research Council funded POSTGLACIAL project we have undertaken a number of experiments at the YEAR Centre. A significant breakthrough was how hunter-gatherers made iconic headdresses 11,000 years ago in North Western Europe. We used flint blades, hammerstones and burning techniques to fashion reproductions of shamanic headdresses made from red deer crania, which were discovered during excavations at the Early Mesolithic site at Star Carr in North Yorkshire. These headdresses were probably worn by shamans as part of hunting rituals.”
For more information about the POSTGLACIAL project, visit the PloS paper: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0152136